Location: Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia
Title: ZERO: The Trailer Files
Artist: Art Collective Zero - Aleksander Stankoski, Igor Toshevski, Bedi Ibahim, Zlatko Trajkovski, Sinisha Cvetkovski, Mishko Desovski, Perica Georgiev, Gorancho Gjorgjievski
Curator: Gorancho Gjorgjievski
Artist: Žarko Bašeski
Curator: Emil Aleksiev
Venue: Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, Cannaregio
Celyn Bricker interviews Emil Aleksiev, Curator of Leap project
CB: The ‘LEAP’ installation seems to be more complicated than the project of a single artist, but rather the product of collaboration between commissioner, curator, collaborator and artist. How significant was this collaboration for the artwork?
EA: Cooperation is necessary in order to create a complex work of art. The artist who could once be seen as a craftsman and his work treated as a supreme product of human labor (G. K. Argan), migrated into the class of industrial workers who manufacture goods, and then into the class of administrators and managers who make decisions, select and use things others have produced (Boris Groys). Mental and menial elements used to be united into the person of one artist; then they were separated into those who make designs and those who carry them out; eventually there will remain only the mental element and the mechanic prosthesis or the hand of a robot.
The LEAP Project is manifold and raises the issue of who is an artist nowadays and how a work of art can be created (considering the fact that Bašeski’s sculptures require complex and expensive technology).
CB: A lot of the discussion around LEAP focuses on the conceptual inspiration of the project that is found in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Do you feel an understanding of Nietzschean philosophy or Nietzche’s concept of the Übermensch is important for a proper appreciation the project LEAP?
EA: Nietzsche himself said that his ideas would prevail two centuries later, probably having in mind the end of this commercial era. Actually, in spite of the controversial interpretations (his work is a perturbing prophetic and poetic speech), he predicted accurately the development of modern society and the future of mankind. Like all true prophets, he does not predict future directly, but tells you what to do now in order to have future. Nietzsche asks, “Man is something that has to be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”
What was interesting to me was the effort for fierce, raw materialisation of an idea that would otherwise be doomed to be a lingering ghost in today’s virtual world. What attracted me to cooperate with this artist was the possibility to face horror in the immediate materialisation of the image of ourselves we don’t want to see. We have to face our epochal failure to become something more than we are. This is the story of our failure, the failure to leap beyond ourselves – the failure of the man to become Übermensch.
CB: Why was this focus chosen? Do you feel the Ubermensch or Nietzschean philosophy in general is particularly relevant to the present day?
EA: ‘Übermensch is our future! Man ought to disappear! Death of man is necessary! The future of man is overman!’ You see, front page headlines like these would stir terrible confusion. They would probably be associated with some Nazi fantasy and calling the Raubtier – the fair-haired beast (Nietzschean metaphor for a lion and not an Aryan). The world we live in today is a banal spectacle and endless fireworks of wishes projected against the grey sky of our existence. People are blinded and disoriented. We have become prisoners in a world we ourselves built. Therefore it is necessary to ask questions. People ought to face the truth about themselves. In a world reduced to visualisation, these questions should probably be images. The question we want to raise is if a man can really be something more than he is. Can a man leap beyond himself in an effort to self-improvement and self-transcending? What have we done to overcome ourselves?
The Project LEAP aimed at showing the unsuccessful attempts of mankind. The project was intended to be exhibited in a tent in Riva degli Schiavoni, in Venice, where “live sculptures” can usually be seen – people on pedestals who act out sculptures as opposed to the sculptures in the tent who act out living men. Live sculptures in Venice most often represent important historic figures or superheroes of modern mythology, while these are sculptures of an ordinary man trying to achieve something impossible and overcome himself. Thus you can draw a line through history from Gilgamesh and Ramses III, through Alexander the Great and Napoleon, to Hitler and Mussolini, but also to those on welfare, illegal workers or immigrants who can be seen in the streets of your city in their daily attempt to overcome themselves. Zarko Baseski’s sculptures are based on this very historic line of human development and social progress, or if you please, the line of perverted history. His man is a pathetic failure. He is a man of great potential, but sitting all day long in a shabby shack made of ribbed tin on the outskirts of a big city, in his shabby, greasy armchair, beer in his hand, looking blandly at the colourful images flashing on the TV set. He is someone you can see in the streets of your city – an immigrant, homeless and third class citizen like you and me. The question is if we are aware of it. Are we emigrants from a reality we don’t like? Are we homeless in our own homes? Are we third class citizens in a world we don’t understand and which is not our world?
CB: How does project LEAP relate to the other work in the Macedonian Pavilion? Were there any specific curatorial difficulties with this arrangement?
EA: Even though we had direct cooperation with the group Zero that set up The Trailer Files Installation and the two projects, we were surprised by some kind of breaking in by the collective unconscious and projecting the image of our reality (“the real reality”) and of the man today in the space of the renaissance Papafava Palace, which is our pavilion. On the one hand (not to mention the low level of realisation of the two projects), you see hopeless image of a waste land, where some carts with empty baskets of desires pull us towards the future, with a shiny NOMEN EST O-MEN neon sign above, and on the other hand, there is a pathetic, oversized representation of a man who wants to overcome himself at any price. This is a dark, frightening and upsetting scene. Both works have their own universal metaphysical dimensions, but they are also gloomy metaphors of the conditions in the Republic of Macedonia today and of our attempts to be more than we are, unwilling to change ourselves, which is an impossible feat, as impossible as the effort to leap beyond oneself, to lift oneself above the ground holding one’s own ears or to get higher by climbing onto oneself. When media spectacle and false images of the world are discarded – what remains is the muddy dregs of reality in which we are stuck.
CB: Is the project LEAP a one-off for the Biennale or will you continue to explore aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy in installations in the future?
EA: I hope I will have that possibility. Nietzsche’s message is extremely important for all of us. We had to face a lot of difficulties in the realization of this project. The whole drama around the project actually became part of it, reflecting our failure to LEAP beyond ourselves.